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Review, 3-31: What she when she
Yokoshi Carves Carver
Copyright 2006 Maura Nguyen Donohue
NEW YORK -- The notably
outrageous choreographer Yasuko Yokoshi's latest creation, "What
we when we," proved to be a sensually meditative work last weekend
at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church. Inspired by Raymond Carver's
acclaimed short story, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,"
the dance, like Carver's writing, subverts simplicity with sublime
glimpses into the depths of love and loss.
brings traditional Japanese Kabuki Su-odori dance forward into the
current day with the aid of fellow performers and contemporary trained
Japanese artists Ryutaro Mishima, Kazu Nakamura, Matsuhide Nakashima,
and Hiromi Naruse. The effect is purely post-modern Zen. The economy
of motion, extreme levels of order, and lack of ornamentation bring
our focus in towards the most minute gesture. I am repeatedly seduced
by the deliberate way in which Mishima pulls cigarettes from his
yukata sleeve and specifically shifts his box of matches
an inch over along the floor; the way a quick click of the heel
of a geta allows the wearer to step out of his wooden clogs;
or a man's slow stroll as he is trailed by a scampering woman whose
shuffle echoes through the church. Each moment is so understated
and yet makes me instantly nostalgic for a Japan I have yet to actually
encounter beyond the film screen.
Su-odori (in English,
"Bare dance") is a stripped-down response to the exaggerated gestures,
costumes and make-up of Kabuki. However, like a proper contemporary
artist, Yokoshi cleverly employs modern looking gender play that
in reality is derived from conventional Kabuki-styled onnagata
(female impersonator) performances by Nakamura and Nakashima. Both
men handle moments of refined female head tilts and glances with
superb comfort and then shift easily for a masculine, climactic
trio with Mishima complete with foot stomps, head snaps and the
trademark cross-eyed stares.
Yokoshi credits her
76-year-old teacher Masumi Seyama with some of the choreography,
this being the first time Seyama's traditional disciplines have
been appropriated for Western-style contemporary dance making. Yokoshi
speaks at length about her training and process in an interview
with Tere O'Connor on Movement Research's website, so I'll refer
you there rather than contextualize further here, but will share
that the evening-length work includes exquisite passages of traditional